During the Fall of 2016, Spring of 2017 and Fall of 2017, first year students have been inquired about their understanding of engineering culture and their process of enculturation to engineering. Approximately 800 students have answered online surveys and approximately 45 have participated in focus groups. This poster presents the results of the NSF funded project titled “Research Initiation: Exploring Enculturation of Engineering students in the First-Year Engineering Program” during its second year of progress.
Enculturation is defined as the process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its knowledge, practices and values. The research team approach to the professional formation of engineers is through the notion of the first-year engineering experience viewed as an “enculturating process.” The goals of this project are (a) to increase the number of engineers supplied to the labor force, and (b) to increase the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups to engineering. The research questions this project seeks to answer are:
1. How do foundational engineering courses facilitate enculturation of first-year engineering students in terms of their performance in engineering enculturation outcome factors?
2. Among the engineering enculturation outcome factors, which are perceived by students to be the easiest and/or most challenging/difficult to achieve?
3. How do students’ perceptions of enculturation to be an engineer change over time?
According to gender analysis, results show that the contribution of the courses in the first year engineering program is perceived as more foundational for female than male students. Female students also emphasized the importance of problem solving and communication skills. In terms of ethnicity, the contribution of the courses did not show many differences except for specific skills such as programming and communications. In terms of advance in the engineering program, upper level students taking the foundational courses tend to value friends and peers in engineering (as factors other than foundational courses) more than freshmen.
Also, in terms of rating ABET outcomes (considered enculturation factors), from easiest to more challenging, the analysis revealed that the outcomes perceived as more challenging are: (a) knowledge of contemporary issues in engineering, (b) to have a broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental and societal context and (c) the ability to design a system, component or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints as an engineer. The easiest perceived outcomes were (a) the ability to apply my knowledge of mathematics to solve engineering problems, (b) the ability to recognize the need for and plan to engage in life-long learning as an engineering, and (c) the ability to function well on multidisciplinary teams as an engineer.
In general terms, the implications of these results are that gender, ethnicity, and level in the engineering program play a role in the way enculturation to engineering is perceived and assimilated during the first-year engineering experience. Further investigation is taking place as part of the ongoing, second year of this project.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.